Rotem is a rare Sand Cat, and she lives at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan. After her partner, Sela, died about a year ago, keepers began searching for a young male Sand Cat who could take Sela's place. After intensive searching, a match was located at a zoo in Sweden, 3-year old Kalahari.
The connection between the two seemed rather hesitant. After a period of getting acquainted, the zookeepers put Rotem and Kalahari together, but they weren't sure that the relationship was going in the right direction. In order to try and ensure a bond, the zookeepers decided to leave the two together in the same enclosure for the night.
Until that point in time, it wasn't customary to leave the Sand Cats together at night, in order to eliminate the possibility of tension and fights when the zookeepers weren't around. Since no violent behavior had been observed between the two since Kalahari's arrival, it was decided to leave them together day and night.
Three weeks ago, early in the morning when the zookeepers arrived at the Safari, they found three tiny kittens in a burrow in the enclosure. Rotem had given birth, and was already devotedly caring for her kittens!
During the period when Sela was Rotem's mate, the zookeepers had managed to document every time the pair mated during the day, as this took place only in the outside yard. Now, as Kalahari and Rotem remained together at night, the night matings weren't documented, so it wasn't possible to count the 60-69 days between mating and birth. Even though Rotem's stomach grew larger, the zookeepers couldn't know when she was expected to give birth.
The small, stocky Sand Cat (Felis margarita) is a species of great importance. They are classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List. There are only 200 Sand Cats in European zoos, and many attempts are being made to breed them with the hope that it will be possible to reintroduce them back to the wild.
The Sand Cats distribution is the border area between Israel and Jordan, and also further east. There are additional subspecies found also in North Africa and Saudi Arabia. As they used to live in Israel in the past, their importance to the Safari staff is even greater.
From the moment of their birth, the kittens have remained close to their mother in the yard. Until now, Rotem has hidden them under her body, but it's now possible to visit and observe them at the Safari.